57 Chapters
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Medium 9781574413205

Hinkel Shillings and the Red Ranger

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch02.pdf

10/6/11

8:15 AM

Page 115

HINKEL SHILLINGS AND THE RED RANGER by Thad Sitton

On April 21, 1941, terrible news passed through the crowd of three thousand at the annual state field trial of the Texas Fox and

Wolf Hunters Association near Crockett. The nocturnal hunters of fox and coyote—“hilltoppers,” “moonlighters,” or just “plain old forks-of-the-creek fox hunters”—had assembled for one of their rare daytime competitions to discover who had the best dog.

Judges watched hounds with big numbers on their sides run foxes in broad daylight to see which ones led the packs. Day or night, such men never rode to hounds like the red-coated horsemen.

Instead, in most of their hunting, they stood by fires and listened in the dark to the voices of a special breed of dog developed to chase foxes entirely on its own. It was a strange hound and a strange bloodless sort of hunting, in which, as folklorist F. E. Abernethy once observed, “The race is the thing, and it is the running of it that is its significance, not the reward at the end. . . .”1 In truth, as outsiders often observed, there seemed no obvious reward to fox hunting. The game was left alive to run another night, and in any case, nobody ate foxes.

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The Big Fish That Didn't Get Away

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch03.pdf

10/6/11

8:16 AM

Page 177

THE BIG FISH THAT DIDN’T GET AWAY by Nina Marshall Garrett

In 1938, when I was eleven years old, my family moved from Arizona back to Oklahoma to Lake West, a community about ten miles south of Boswell and three miles north of the Red River.

While we were in Arizona for three-and-a-half years, my brothers and father used the irrigation system on the farm where they worked. They were impressed with how one could water the crops at a time when the weather was dry and thus have a sure way of having a successful harvest. After share cropping one of the large farms at Lake West for two years, the Government placed the former plantation land up for sale in 1940, and my dad and brothers were some of the first to buy their farms. It seems they chose just the right land, for the creeks that flowed through their farms would feed a lake to water the land with a gravity flow system, which was what was used in Arizona and California. In

1954, they purchased a bulldozer and, with their mule teams and tractors, built a large fourteen-acre lake, making the proper dam and outlets to irrigate about 100 acres of my father’s land. My two older brothers were partners with much more land. Between

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Jackrabbit Drives (and Other Types of Rabbit Hunting) in the Pleasant Valley Community, Fisher County, Texas

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch04.pdf

10/6/11

8:16 AM

Page 209

JACKRABBIT DRIVES (AND OTHER

TYPES OF RABBIT HUNTING) IN THE

PLEASANT VALLEY COMMUNITY,

FISHER COUNTY, TEXAS by Ruth Cleveland Riddels

Jackrabbit drives were conducted in Fisher County as early as 1920 and continued until after World War II. In The Picture Book of

Fisher County, compiled by The Fisher County Historical Commission, page 192, there are two pictures of groups of men with guns that were labeled “Rabbit Drive, 1920” and “Rabbit Drive, 1941.”

During those years the jackrabbit population had increased to plague proportions, “eating everything in sight.” Rabbits will not only eat plants above the ground but will then dig up the roots.

Rabbits also will eat the bark off young trees, and large jackrabbits standing on their hind legs can eat a lot of bark. I don’t know what the conditions were that caused the increase of the jackrabbit population to the extent that the jackrabbits were a menace to all edible plants and the livelihood of rural families, nor do I know why the jackrabbit population has never increased to the point of being such a menace again. They certainly were not hunted to extinction, as plenty of them can still be found in west Texas.

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Part Two Day 4

Geraldine Ellis Watson University of North Texas Press PDF

Reflections on the Neches

shack was usually a tent on the last crib. When the raft hit land in the bend of the river, she saw that it was beginning to break apart and pile up, so she dived into the water and swam clear. That must have been an awesome sight: those great logs piling up like match sticks. She always told I. C. that if the river ever got low enough to expose the logs, he should pull them out, for they were virgin longleaf pine logs and would be as good as new due to submersion in the water. The year Saul Aronow, Ranger David McHugh, and

I canoed the upper Neches, it was lower than I had ever seen it and that was the year I. C. pulled out a good portion of the logs. The fence around his house on Highway 92 was made of hand-rived pales from these logs.

The river was the only way they could transport timber from the Neches watershed to the big lumber mills in Beaumont. Loggers would kill the trees by girdling them, wait a year for them to dry standing up, then cut them down with axes and two-man crosscut saws. Oxen and mules dragged the logs to the sloughs, then, when the winter floods came and water rose, the logs were floated. The main routes in the flooded bottomlands had the trees along them cut while the water was down, and they were called float roads. The logs were fastened with wooden pegs into cribs, or small rafts, and the cribs were connected by chains or ropes to make a long raft. The end of each log was struck with a sledge hammer that had a raised letter on it, thus branding the logs so the receiving mills would know to whom the logs should be credited. Perhaps the owner suspected some enterprising loggers might decide to sell a few logs on their own and pocket the proceeds.

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Fishing for Whoppers

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch05.pdf

10/6/11

8:17 AM

Page 307

FISHING FOR WHOPPERS by Henry Wolff, Jr.

Whoppers come in many forms, everything from a hamburger to a big fish, but I happen to be particularly fond of the kind that are measured not by taste or size but in the telling, such as the stories that can be heard around a table on a lazy afternoon in a country tavern—or at a fish camp like the one at Indianola that the old fisherman Ed Bell operated for many years.

Known in his time as one of the best tall tale tellers on the

Texas Coast, one example would be a story that Bell always credited to a friend, Tex Wilson. It seems that Wilson and his wife had been fishing in some fairly deep water when their boat bogged down.

“It had to be four feet of water for it not to kick up any mud,” Bell explained in telling the story. “All at once it just stalled and ol’ Tex couldn’t figure it out since there weren’t any logs or anything there to stop a boat. That was when his wife looked over the bow of the boat and said, ‘Good Lord, Tex, cut that thing off and come here and look a minute.’ He did and there was a big ol’ flounder with his back just flush with the top of the water.

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Part One Day 2

Geraldine Ellis Watson University of North Texas Press PDF

Part One, Day 1

Part One

Day 2

BURIED FOREST

River Mile 103.5 10:30 A.M.

It was a misty, magical morning. The gentle rain lasted a short time; a dense fog lay over the water, but it was dispersing, so I packed and stowed my gear and pushed off over the glassy water into the mist.

About ll:00 A.M. just below Cowart’s Bend, I came upon a high, colorful bluff. It was once a steamboat landing, and was the terminus of a branch of the Magnolia Springs road. The cutting action of the river here reveals about

25 feet of floodplain history covering possibly 5,000 years. At normal water level, there is at the bluff base a shelf of the rock-like gray clay found at various shoal sites between Dam B and Sheffield’s Ferry. It appears to be of

Fleming Formation age as it tests high on the pH scale. (I carry a small bottle of 10 percent hydrochloric acid to test materials suspected to be calcareous.)

Above this rocklike clay are several strata of different materials. There is a layer of ocher-colored silt above the clay, then a layer of compressed snowwhite, fine-grained sand, over that a layer of red iron oxide sandy clay, all topped by a dark topsoil. The erosion of these materials has created many strange and beautiful shapes and colors. They are transient in nature as the heavy rains, water seepage, and floods erase them and make blank walls for new creations. One white wall had an abstract design of brilliant red oxide painted onto the surface by water seepage from above. Buff-colored walls

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Fisherman's Luck

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch03.pdf

10/6/11

8:16 AM

Page 186

186 Fishing Lore in Texas water’s surface to check the holes in the sides and bottom of the creek where fish stayed. The murky water in the creek made it difficult to see very far. They had seen several nice fish in the water, when all of a sudden Buster disturbed a water moccasin. It bit him on his leg just a few inches above his ankle. He shot to the top of the water and yelled, “Snake bite.” Dad had seen the action under the water and came up right behind Buster. Hurriedly they got on the bank.

Dad had Buster lie down with his head higher than his feet so that his blood would flow slower to his heart. Dad grabbed his sharpened pocket-knife, cut two deep X’s over the fang marks, and began sucking out the blood and poison, then spitting it on the ground. The women and children were horrified. We cried, prayed, wrung our hands, and paced back and forth while this was taking place.

All the while, Grandpa Coney was begging Dad not to do it.

“Lowell, if you’ve got an open cut in your mouth, that poison will go right to your brain and kill you. Let’s take Buster to the doctor.” Dad didn’t even pause to answer; he just continued sucking out that poison and spitting it out. He knew that the snake was very large with a lot of venom. He also knew it would take at least half an hour to get to the nearest hospital. By that time, Buster could be dead. Dad continued the treatment for about fifteen minutes until he was satisfied that he had removed all of the poison that he could. Then Buster’s leg was bandaged. Everyone began loading the cars with whatever they had brought, and we all returned home, emotionally exhausted. We caught no fish that day! But the main thing was that Buster was alive, thanks to an oldtime folk remedy.

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The Pointer

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF
Medium 9781574413205

Part I

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF
Medium 9781574411607

Part Three Day 2

Geraldine Ellis Watson University of North Texas Press PDF

Part Three, Day 1

Part Three

Day 2

L.N.V.A. CANAL

River Mile 37.4

The morning after the storm, the canal was smooth and lovely, reflecting the still-green trees and the few maples and Chinese tallows which had begun to turn color. The bends are small compared to those of the Neches, and only the first few have sandbars. The canal was constructed in 1925 and, though it is artificial, it follows a series of sloughs and cypress swamps, so retains a natural configuration. One particular cypress swamp on the right is broad and deep and one can paddle about and explore it to some extent. I wanted to save my paddling arm for Cook’s Lake, however, so I passed it by.

One bend is especially wide where a slough from the interior of the island enters the canal and becomes like a lake. Daddy and I once came here fishing, and witnessed a sad sight. A mother with her two teenage children, a boy and a girl, had come to picnic and swim. The young people were splashing about in the shallow water near the shore when the girl slipped off into a deep hole. She couldn’t swim, so the brother jumped in to help and was dragged under also. The mother was almost drowned trying to save them, but managed to struggle to shore and go for help. Divers found the bodies while we were there and brought them to shore. Their limbs were frozen in that last moment when the muscles relaxed in unconsciousness and they drifted downward. The air in their lungs, mixed with blood and mucus, oozed out and formed exotic pink foam flowers about their mouths. The mother

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Roping a Deer

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch05.pdf

10/6/11

8:17 AM

Page 315

ROPING A DEER

(Names have been removed to protect the stupid)

[Editor’s note: The following has been passed along by email, from many people. If an original contributor can be located, please let me know so proper credit can be awarded. –Untiedt]

Actual letter from someone who farms and writes well:

I had this idea that I was going to rope a deer, put it in a stall, feed it up on corn for a couple of weeks, then kill it and eat it. The first step in this adventure was getting a deer. I figured that, since they congregate at my cattle feeder and do not seem to have much fear of me when we are there (a bold one will sometimes come right up and sniff at the bags of feed while I am in the back of the truck not four feet away), it should not be difficult to rope one, get up to it and toss a bag over its head (to calm it down), then hog tie it and transport it home.

I filled the cattle feeder, then hid down at the end with my rope. The cattle, having seen the roping thing before, stayed well back. They were not having any of it. After about twenty minutes, my deer showed up—three of them. I picked out a likely looking one, stepped out from the end of the feeder, and threw my rope.

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Area Map of Neches River

Geraldine Ellis Watson University of North Texas Press PDF
Medium 9781574413205

Skills of the Rivermen: Ways and Means of Market Fishermen

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt University of North Texas Press PDF

7978-ch03.pdf

10/6/11

8:16 AM

Page 167

SKILLS OF THE RIVERMEN: WAYS AND

MEANS OF MARKET FISHERMEN by Wildwood Dean Price

Traveling down the path from our past is the only way into the future. With that in mind, let us look back down the path from whence we came.

If you are a native American—not an immigrant—and were born west of the Rockies, you more than likely descended from

“River People.” The purchase of the Louisiana Territory from

France began a great migration into the American West. The Red

River and other rivers, such as the Missouri, the Mississippi, and the Arkansas, provided the highways into the interior, and settlers took up residence along their banks.

The people that settled along the rivers made a living farming and ranching in the fertile bottomlands. With the taming of the

Wild Frontier came other occupations: clearing timber, punching cattle, market hunting, and commercial fishing to name a few.

Throughout our history, ways of making a living have changed with the needs of a growing nation. Every so often there comes along an occupation that seems to be the panacea: offering a getrich-quick scheme, high adventure, or a glorified way of life. The market fishing that had its start during the Depression offered none of those things; it lasted only a few short years, was more adaptable to the lazy rather than the hard-working, and, like the occupations before it, gave only temporary riches. The one thing market fishing did offer was dependable work in the face of starvation.

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Part One Day 1

Geraldine Ellis Watson University of North Texas Press PDF

Reflections on the Neches

Part One

Day 1

LAUNCH OFF

River Mile 108 12:00 Noon

It was a glorious autumn day, the river was just right, my boat was packed with simple necessities, I was ready. My 15-year-old blind samoyed dog, Ulysses,

Jr., was also ready, and David, my son, was ready to launch us off. We were putting in at Town Bluff and I had left my VW van at Sheffield’s Ferry (Highway

1013), the takeout point. Junior and I climbed aboard my 14-foot flat-bottom riverboat, and David pushed us off into the current to begin our odyssey. Ulysses,

Jr., posed proudly like a figurehead in the prow, his ears erect to catch the sounds of all the things his poor blind eyes were missing. How joyously he had leaped into the boat when I said, “Yes, Darling, you can go!”

At this point, I should have sailed grandly and majestically off onto the river and into my great adventure, but, alas, the Corps of Engineers, who regulate the release of water at Dam B, just a few hundred yards upstream, had decided to hold the water for awhile, so there was no current. A strong wind came up and pushed my light craft backward, so there I sat, paddling furiously and going nowhere. David stayed long enough to have a good laugh and left me to the mercy of the wind and river. Finally, the wind slacked, and I made enough headway to get downstream into some current. I continued to wield the paddle with vigor, however, in order to get away from the developed areas below the dam before night fell. My heart was set on camping the first night on the big sandbar at Cowart’s Bend. Another

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Part Two Day 5

Geraldine Ellis Watson University of North Texas Press PDF

Reflections on the Neches

Part Two

Day 5

GORE LANDING

River Mile 61

9:48 A.M.

Just above Pearl River Bend was Gore Landing. I got out of the boat here and looked around, but found no evidence that it had once been an active and busy place. It was probably a summer port as the access road is across the multiple drainage pattern from Deserters Baygall and must have been a booger to traverse during wet weather.

Gore Landing Road follows hummocks through the bottom and joins the

Old Maids Road near Gore Cemetery at the edge of the terrace. It then proceeds west along the ridge dividing Deserters Baygall from Round Pond Baygall to the Gore house on the Old Wagon Road where the terrace rises to the upland. The Old Maids Road was named for two sisters, Tina and Lisha Gore.

Never having married, they lived in the family home after their parents died.

I used to stop by and visit them—oh, it must have been in the late 1960s. They lived exactly as their forebears did and in the same house.

The Gore house was set back behind two big live oak trees and a handsplit rail fence, and several big mulberry trees grew along the fence row.

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